The Old Vic. January 31, 2022.
Lennie James and Paapa Essiedu.
Lynsey Turner directing.
Es Devlin designing.
Caryl Churchill’s play.
This ooozes class.
The premise is simple. One father with a chequered past. A number of sons who have all been created from the same son. Replicas. Clones. Brothers?
Nature vs nurture. What causes us to be so different from each other when 99% of our DNA is identical ? What creates anger, violence, fear, joy? Is it nature or nurture?
Does it matter that we are unique? Should it? Are we really? The stat about the lettuce is suitably hilarious and mind-boggling. I won’t spoil it.
A Number is the last play I saw before lockdown 1. It left me puzzling and seeking to understand. Here I felt so much clarity of narrative. I wondered what I had been puzzling about.
These are two mighty actors from some of the finest TV ever (Line of Duty and I May Destroy You) and the razor sharp direction of Turner is magnetic.
The scene changes flash, Essiedu seems to teleport around the stage. And Devlin’s set is modern and clinical, trying to be a home but not quite achieving it; seemingly in a colour of the scraped cells taken to make the Number.
At 65 mins this is short, bitter sweet yet stylish and clever.
5/5. Worth the price of admission just to see these two actors together. More of this Old Vic.